The 2018 spring college football rankings, taking the first look at the UCF Knights.
No. 43: UCF Knights
Spring Practice Starts: March 20
Spring Game: April 21
UCF Knights Spring Status
Hey, no pressure or anything, new guy. All the former guy did was go 13-0 last season with an American Athletic Conference championship, a Peach Bowl win over Auburn, and in the mind of a crazed fan base, a national championship.
Now it’s up to Josh Heupel to try keeping all the fun going after an impossibly thrilling season and an offense that rolled at will at times. The former Oklahoma star quarterback and Missouri offensive coordinator knows how to get an attack moving, but the bar is set at an impossible level.
McKenzie Milton is back as the triggerman to run it all, and he’s got almost all of his weapons to play around with. WR Tre’Quan Smith and TE Jordan Akins left early for the next level, but four starters are back up front and the backfield is loaded.
The defense is the bigger issue, losing Shaq Griffin, DE Jamiyus Pittman, and four starters in the front seven. The secondary should be fine, but star corner Mike Hughes is off to the NFL.
Whatever – UCF went 0-12 when Scott Frost took over.
UCF Biggest Depth Chart Battle
Defensive end. There’s no replacing Griffin at one outside linebacker spot, and Chequan Burkett was great tackler who’ll be missed, but the toughest position to fill is on the end, where Jamiyus Pittman and Tony Guerad are done after combining for 16.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. Backup Seyvon Lowry is gone, too.
UCF Biggest Issue
The defensive backfield. The yards mostly came against the UCF secondary because teams spent so much time bombing away to try keeping up, but the pass D was still a problem, allowing 1,305 yards and nine touchdowns over the last three games. There’s experience and talent, but Hughes was the eraser on one side – he won’t easily be replaced.
UCF Biggest Positive
The offensive backfield. Getting McKenzie Milton back starts it all, but the running backs are there, too. Adrian Killins is a lightning fast leading rusher, Otis Anderson can move, and Milton finished second on the team with 613 yards and eight scores. All but seven of the 2,583 rushing yards of last season return.
Really, Why Are The UCF Knights Ranked Here?
It’s impossible to ask the program to stay as special as it was over the miraculous 2017 run, but it’ll still be among the best Group of Fivers – if not the star of the show again.
Losing the NFL talents in Griffin, Smith, Hughes, Pittman and Akins hurts, and yup, Frost might have really been that amazing. But don’t expect anything less than another great season – even if it doesn’t end with a national championship.